No Greece deal at Eurogroup, issue to be reviewed in June


Eurozone finance ministers, the International Monetary Fund and the Greek government failed to agree at talks on Monday on a release of further bailout funds for Athens and reached no deal on further offers of debt relief for Greece, EU officials said.

According reports, the issue will be discussed again next month.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said at the conclusion of a meeting of the single currency bloc's 19 finance ministers that Greece has made "huge progress" on implementing the policy package required of it in return for the money it needs to avoid going bankrupt. He said Monday that Greece still has a few actions to undertake while the institutions overseeing the country's bailout still have to make some checks.

He also said an agreement on Greek debt relief measures was not possible and that further discussions will need to take place before the next meeting of the so-called eurogroup in three weeks, by which time he hopes that the International Monetary Fund will get on board with Greece's bailout program.

Sources earlier said that an initial meeting, involving all eurozone finance ministers, yielded a mostly positive assessment of Greece’s adoption of a series of prior actions.

Subsequent talks, aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement that also tackles Greece’s debt, were trickier.

They started with a four-way meeting between Dijsselbloem, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, France’s Bruno Le Maire and Poul Thomsen of the International Monetary Fund. This was followed by a series of smaller meetings between top officials that stretched late into the night.

Earlier in the day Dijsselbloem dampened Greek expectations for a deal on debt at the Eurogroup, saying that “a final deal” on debt is expected, “if it is needed” in 2018 when the bailout expires. The Dutch minister said that the goal of the meeting is for the IMF to join the Greek program.

Athens’s main obstacle to securing a deal for debt relief at the Eurogroup and to unlock bailout funds is Schaeuble, who, earlier in the day, indicated that he would not approve more loans to Greece without the participation of the IMF. On debt relief he has appeared intent on picking up the discussion after the Greek program ends.

“Midterm debt relief measures are already in effect. The next measures will be decided after the end of the program,” Schaeuble said before the Eurogroup, adding that debt relief for Greece will need special approval by Germany’s parliament.

However, the EU’s Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici struck a more positive tone before the meeting. “I feel a strong willingness by all parties without exception to reach an overall deal,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a phone conversation with new French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday in the latest in a string of contacts he is making to push the case for Greek debt relief.

According to the PM’s office, both men agreed on the need for a solution that will benefit Greece and the eurozone and that they will work together toward this goal by having frequent contacts.